Land[s] like a fist to the solar plexus ... Full of booby traps, but the metaphorical kind that blow up futures instead of limbs: negligent parents, busted marriages, dead-end jobs, booze, poverty, violence, resentment, and misdirected hate ... The stakes with a series detective are by necessity low. But in a stand-alone crime novel like Small Mercies all bets are off ... Lehane has always captured this tetchy, volatile mixture of working-class pride and shame with an expertise born of firsthand experience ... Lehane’s historical pop-culture references are impeccable.
Excellent and unflinching ... The book has all the hallmarks of Lehane at his best: a propulsive plot, a perfectly drawn cast of working-class Boston Irish characters, razor-sharp wit and a pervasive darkness through which occasional glimmers of hope peek out like snowdrops in early spring ... There is a tendency on the part of some contemporary authors to exempt their main characters from the prejudices of time and place, to make them more enlightened than they likely would have been. Lehane resists this ... Lehane masterfully conveys how the past shapes the present, lingering even after the players are gone.
Coyne is a classic Lehane detective: damaged by Vietnam, damaged by drugs, damaged by love. Where a lesser writer might make Coyne into a cliché, Lehane imbues him with an unlikely humanity, a sense of hope that a better world exists ... It would be a shame if Small Mercies was indeed Lehane’s final novel ... If it really is, it’s a worthy coda to a literary career built on cramped streets filled with unreliable women and men, each trying to find balance in a world of cops and criminals and a town in which you can’t always tell them apart.
As always, Lehane is terrific at finely drawn character sketches thrumming with both immediacy and humor. The kaleidoscope of portraits running through Small Mercies is by turns funny and chilling ... Small Mercies' story turns just as insistently on a stream of resonant and varying perspectives, perceptibly changing the story’s progress and — echoing its title — slipping in, here and there, tiny but meaningful vestiges of hope.
Dennis Lehane spares nothing and no one in his crackerjack new novel ... Lehane’s language about these events is so unsparing it has shock value. It’s not quotable here. The white characters’ mildest thought is that the dead kid must have been a drug dealer, and it gets uglier from there, as Lehane draws on every vicious, bigoted slur he must have heard growing up in Dorchester ... Joltingly fierce. It’s as hard-hitting as his particular brand of optimism, which regards racism as a form of self-pity and hope as perhaps the opposite of hatred ... He does wrap this one up with genuine closure and a surprising toast between the story’s most symmetrical figures. But if his last words in a novel turn out to be these, so be it: Here, he writes, is 'life in all its highs and lows, all its dashed dreams and surprising joys, its little tragedies and minor miracles.' As epitaphs go, you could do a lot worse.
Gritty ... Brings readers into the mind of Coyne, a Vietnam vet and recovered heroin user who becomes a partial confidante to Mary Pat. His quest for personal salvation, if you will, is a welcome balance to her grief-driven descent.
The latest in a long and rich line of novels, historical novels and literary crime novels ... Lehane is a rare writer who makes you want to read fast and slow at the same time. His propulsive plots compel you to keep turning pages. Yet, his profoundly perceptive writing makes you want to pause — to laugh at an exquisitely caustic description or to tend the hairline crack a character has just opened in your heart ... Small Mercies is too nuanced a novel to just show the loud surface. So much of the story flows from the maddening powerlessness over their lives that the Southie residents keenly feel ... What genuinely gives this novel texture is its language. Lehane is a master at authentic conversation, dialogue that feels like it just exited the mouth of a real person.
At once a crime novel, a deep, unflinching look at racism, and a heart-wrenching story about a mother who has lost everything ... Between the constant racist discourse and endless racial slurs, Small Mercies is a difficult read ... This is a novel about grief, poverty, desperation, and the power of the criminals running Southie. However, the main element here is racism, and that makes it a relevant read today because, sadly, some of the discursive elements present in the story are still around ... While this is a timely thriller that carries a lot of emotion, memorable characters, crackling dialogue, and great action, the rampant racism and constant use of racist jokes, comments, and slurs almost overpowers everything else.
[A] high-octane drama ... Vintage Lehane. The dialogue is punchy, the action gritty and the mystery intriguing. Lehane's prose is deliciously raw ... The book's main highlight, though, is its central character. Mary Pat...is a true force of nature and one of Lehane's most memorable creations. Despite, or perhaps because of her flaws, we champion her all the way through this electrifying tale about race relations, retribution and power.
Superior ... That Mary Pat is good with a pistol and capable of beating up young guys may stretch credulity, especially as there’s no mention of guns and fighting in her past, but the action builds to a gloriously tense and discomforting finale. Readers will be left feeling battered and scarred.